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Monday, November 20, 2017
HomeHealthMcDonald’s Healthy Menu Changes

McDonald’s Healthy Menu Changes

This post is written by Charmaine Ruddock MS. She directs Bronx Health REACH, a coalition of 50 community and faith-based organizations, funded by the Centers for Disease Control’s REACH 2010 Initiative to address racial and ethnic health disparities.  


For anti-obesity advocates, the NY Times article last Friday, September 27th  covering  the announcement by McDonald’s  that they are planning to cut back on their marketing of  unhealthy food to children while  also planning to add fruits and vegetables to their adult menus, was a hard won victory in the ongoing war on obesity and the role fast food plays in that war.

One advocate taking credit for this victory is State Assemblyman Felix Ortiz who, in a press release from his office, said, “ Fast food restaurants are often the easiest and most inexpensive option for single-working parents; McDonald’s healthier menu items will benefit these families tremendously and demonstrates a willingness to take part in the movement of change.”   Other advocates that had a hand in this change are the Clinton Foundation and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation which itself is a brainchild of the Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association.

For several years there have been small victories in this sector.  Most of us have seen the McDonalds ads with children drinking low fat milk and eating apple slices instead of French fries with their kids’ meals and we have seen the menu boards with the calorie listings.  The new changes which are supposed to be rolled out in the Corporation’s twenty largest markets will promote juice and water as well as low fat milk.

Happy Meals packaging will also include messages promoting in ‘fun ways’ the eating of fruits and vegetables. Let’s hope the ‘fun ways’ do not include still offering caramel dipping sauce for the apple slices as is currently the case.  For now I will keep my internal cynic firmly in check because I recognize that if McDonald’s is really serious about this change in direction of healthy marketing to children, and the offering of healthy menu items to both children and adults, the impact they can have in changing the way we eat as Americans will be enormous.

In addition, the impact could also be hugely significant on the farming sector that will be supplying the new food. Here in lies an opportunity for those suppliers to incorporate much of the new direction in healthy farm practices that have gained traction in the last five to ten years.  My fervent hope is that these changes represent the seismic shift that we have been hoping for in Americans and their fast food obsession, and McDonald’s place in that particular obsession.

This obsession was humorously illustrated in an article in today’s NY Times on a group of school children who, on a long planned school trip to historic civil rights sites in Atlanta, found many of the sites closed because of the  Federal government shut down.  As the children asked question after question about the closings – what was closed and what wasn’t….why were some places closed and not others – the teachers, as teachers often do, sought to turn the disappointing trip into a lesson about the workings of government.   In response to the last question, which, not surprisingly when children are involved, was about lunch, their teachers’ answered affirmatively that, “Yes, McDonald’s was still open”.

Yes, McDonald’s is still very much open and, apparently, now open to new and healthier menu choices.

  written by Charmaine Ruddock

Latest comments

  • Great posting Charmaine! Your internal cynic is right next to mine, and it is hard to believe that there is not some boondoggle for McDonalds in this. Perhaps though it will also spur on competition with other fast foods giants such as Burger King and Wendy’s to follow suit. Hope springs internal however, next to the cynic in me.

    I was so pleased to hear on Friday the coalition’s desire to bring more supermarkets into our neighborhoods although saddened to learn of Mychal Johnson’s removal from the Community Board due to his opposition to Fresh Direct. It seems as though there is a unified community momentum to make these changes happen-another example of REACH meeting it’s goals of community participation in health issues. I hope Emma, or someone who is still remaining with REACH can be involved in co-ordinating these efforts and work with Mychal and Molly Hartman to bring in more supermarkets. If Molly has community members participate with her in meeting with executives of the stores (Trader Joes, for ex.) I think said executives are more likely to be convinced that community members want, and will use their stores. That was always the argument that TJ folks would give me, that people wouldn’t come.

    See you tomorrow.


  • Charmaine, thanks for this excellent post. It is heartening to hear that McDonald’s is starting to get the message that offering healthier choices is also good for business. I happened to come across this article today that talks about research showing the huge advertising dollars junk-food companies spend to target kids, especially Latino kids: The writer, Jessica Belasco, writes, “One study found that 84 percent of food and drink commercials on Spanish-language TV channels that are directed at kids are advertising unhealthful foods, compared to 73 percent on English-language TV.” So there’s still a long way to go. Thanks for highlighting this success.

  • Good to know we have healthy alternatives at McDonalds now. Proves that fast food can really be your friend. Just remember, the trick is making the healthiest fast-food choice you can. Thanks for the share!

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